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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

John Riley (1646-91)

Bridget Holmes (1591-1691) Signed and dated 1686

Oil on canvas | 224.7 x 149.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405667

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Bridget Holmes was a ‘Necessary Woman’ at court who lived to the age of one hundred. Her period of royal service began during the time of Charles I and continued into the reign of William III and Mary II. She is shown brandishing her brush and playing a game with a Page of the Backstairs.

It was rare in the seventeenth century for domestic servants to be the subject of portraits; however, as one writer expressed it, ‘Riley was most at home below stairs’. For this portrait Riley has used the trappings of the more formal portraiture that he might have been expected to produce in his role as Principal Painter - the monumentality of the figure, the curtain and the antique vase.